Project Joy: The Triathlon Version

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Just about six months ago, I decided I wanted to do a triathlon.  I wasn't particularly fit.  I'd spent the previous nine or so months doing a lot of hiking but that was about it.  But my friend had done one and the way she talked about it was inspiring. It clicked. I'd never found working out for medicinal purposes (because I knew I ought to) much fun, but I thought training for something seemed like the kind of focus I needed. I'd been a lifeguard in a previous life, so I could swim.  I already knew how to ride a bike.  And I've had periods of lots of running before, so while that seemed like the hardest bit, I thought I could do it.  I decided I would.  I picked a date in April and I started training.  Six months ago, April seemed like a long, long way away.

Training turned out to be hard and fun and surprising and exhausting.  A lot like writing, really.  I got in touch with all kinds of parts of myself along the way.  Some good, some bad.  There's the part of me who thinks she can do absolutely anything simply because she wants to do it.  There's the part of me who always, always, wants to quit and go lie down. These parts are usually shouting pretty loudly in my head whether I'm sitting at my desk or out there on a run, and I never quite know which one is going to win on any given day.  But maybe that's the point: that we can decide.  Every day, we decide.

Two of my oldest friends decided to do this crazy journey with me, one who's done a ton of triathlons and one who hasn't--but who had a baby last fall.  And so we trained.  Or we blew off training.  We tried, in our different cities, and soon enough it was April and we gathered together in Napa and it was time.

I had two connected goals for my triathlon: to finish and to have fun.

Neither one of these seemed remotely possible as I stood with a pack of other lunatics on the steep shore of freezing cold Lake Berryessa last Sunday morning.  I wanted to call the whole thing off.  I wanted to know why I'd decided to do the longer Olympic distance when I could have done a shorter one as an introduction to the sport.  I wanted to know why I'd thought it was a good idea to bite off so much more than I thought I could chew.  But when the gun went off, despite how little I wanted to be there at that moment, I went into the water.  And a few hours later, I crossed that finish line.

I learned a whole lot about myself out there.  I learned that when the hills are steep, looking at how far you have left to go will only make you want to cry--so better by far to concentrate on where you are instead.  I learned that I can do impossible things if I put my mind to it, no matter how I might be feeling at the time.  I learned that most people are incredibly kind, even in challenging circumstances.  I learned that fear and anxiety is really, really hard to hold on to if you do a little dance instead.  I learned that it doesn't matter what my body looks like, only what it does.  I learned that while I might have the urge to give up in the middle, the truth is that everything ends if you stick with it long enough, and is better because you held on.  I learned that swimming in a wetsuit is not the same as swimming without one.  I learned that many of the voices in my head are completely unhelpful, and sometimes you have to sing "Joy to the World" to drown them out and remind yourself that you chose to be here, you chose to do this thing, you can choose to enjoy it, too.  

And I did.  I really did.

I had a wonderful time and none of it was easy.  It was harder than I thought it would be and so much more fun, and I feel like a different person than the one who stood there at the starting line.  I'm bruised and tired and blissful.  I feel connected.  Strong.  Beautiful in ways I didn't understand before.  I'll remember so much about last Sunday.  How euphoric my friends looked when I saw them out there on the course.  The mist over the mountains in the distance, across the gleaming lake.  The perfect blue sky.  Soaring down the hills so fast it felt like flying.  The struggle to get back up them. The cheers from the spectators and all the love families and friends showered on their people as they did this thing.  So much love.  The sun on my face and the wind in my ears.  The quiet, inside and out.


And most of all, the joy.


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2013

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This was such a magical, extraordinary year, coming as it did on the heels of two years' worth of grief, loss, change, and a very grim sort of hope for something better. We found it in 2013, I'm happy to say.

I started the year off on a truly life-altering trip to Ireland in the company of some wonderful (and so very inspiring!) writers, then visited old friends in London. In May Jeff and I visited what we hope will be our future home in Montana, where I went on to plot out a brand new series and the start of a new publishing venture with another set of writers who are both friends and heroes to me. Then in August, Jeff and I took three weeks in Australia and New Zealand and changed ourselves forever. Some places will do that to you! I finished off the year by running a 10K race and surprising myself with how much fun I had--making me very excited for the races I've got planned in 2014 and all the joy and strength training in this body I've never liked so much before has brought me thus far.

This new decision of mine--that I can too be an athlete, just watch--pays dividends every day. It started early this year, when I came back from Ireland and decided it was time to treat my everyday life like my traveling life. That meant exploration. That meant getting outside. Mountains and woods and camping and adventuring. I can't imagine, looking back, how I did without those things for years at a time.

This was the best year yet at the job I love so much, which I'm grateful for every single day. This was a year of love and laughter, the thrill of new beginnings and a quiet exultation in the old, the familiar, and the very dear. Which isn't to say it wasn't without its heartbreaks and challenges, in my house and in my wider circles of friends and relatives. I'm proud to say I am surrounded by strength in the face of incredible obstacles, buoyed by remarkable people all over this planet of ours, and so very, very lucky to live a life this full. As beautiful for its occasional darkness as its light. Thank you all for being a part of it. I hope 2014 brings us all hope and happiness, wisdom and grace, and more laughter than we can bear.
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1.     Stop thinking so much and so hard about yourself.  Think more about others and see what happens.

2.     Pain can be good.  It can lead you exactly where you need to go.

3.     The more you trust, the better it is.

4.     Ask for what you want.  Everything’s better when you do.

5.     “Perfect for you” isn’t the same thing as “perfect,” and vice versa.

6.     People always reveal themselves if you let them, for good or ill.

7.     The good stuff always happens when you take risks and stop hiding.

8.     Shame is another way of hiding.

9.     Did that really hurt or did you think it would?  They aren’t the same thing.  One is real.  The other is you trying to control everything.

10.  You don’t need to control everything.

11.  Unless you really DO need to control everything, in which case, falling in love is probably going to surprise the hell out of you.

12.  You’ll be amazed how much you can take, if you really want to.

13.  Likeminded people are one of life’s best gift.

14.  Communication is everything.

15.  Be who you are, whoever you are.  Because the people who unhesitatingly love the real you are worth however scary it is to show yourself.

Conclusion: You should probably read more erotica.

TEMPT ME, COWBOY is out now!

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I'm so excited that my first straight up contemporary romance is finally out!

TMC cover

You can buy it wherever you buy your ebooks, and I hope you will!

But here it is at Amazon (and there are already some great reviews!  Hooray!) for your buying pleasure, just in case.
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Hooray!  It's my birthday and that means YOU get books!

I'm giving away ten copies of my next Harlequin Presents, A ROYAL WITHOUT RULES, which you can buy with the cover of your choice in the UK and in the US this August:

2in1covers

The ten winners of the new book are:

Lo-Ammi Gaeb
Ginette Kneller
Amanda Shivrattan
Sharon Berger
Rebecca Kramer
Connie Kline Fischer
Terry L Braden
Carol Schaffer
AGirlInSanDiego
Melanie J



And the ten winners of a book I'll select randomly from my backlist are:

(Anonymous) (173.62.197.50)
Jun. 17th, 2013 04:25 pm (UTC)
cover choice
I like the UK one. The two women holding on to him on the US cover seem to be too needy.

ext_1864175
Jun. 19th, 2013 02:28 pm (UTC)
I left a comment on Goodreads too but since I wasn't sure if it was really suppose to be here I will leave one here too:)
The one on the left is my favorite - I love the look on the guy's face. I do love the girl in the green dress on the right too though!

Brenda Holmes
ropo

Terrinkelly Ford
Karen Quattlebaum
Denise Morton Murray
Diana Michelle Tidlund
Mary Ware Feix Bradford
Judith Voss

If your name is on the list (or your anonymous comment!), email me your snail mail address: caitlin AT caitlincrews DOT com and I'll get the books in the mail--hopefully this week!

Hope you have a great day.  I'm off to celebrate!

There's Still Time To Win A Book!

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Happy Monday!  I have a book to finish, so that's what I'll be trying to do this week.

(If you are my editor: that's what I'll be DOING, not TRYING TO DO, OF COURSE!)
Don't forget that you can still enter my birthday contest here:

I'm giving away ten copies of my new book, A ROYAL WITHOUT RULES, and, because the response has been so great, ten copies from my backlist, too.  All you have to do is tell me which cover you like better: the blue (that's the UK cover) or the white/red (that's the US cover).

I'll be picking winners on Wednesday morning over at my journal--but you can leave me your entry anywhere.  I'll find it.

Happy birthday week!

Happy Birthday To Me--Win A Book!

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My birthday is next week--hooray!--and I thought I'd celebrate by giving away some books.  In this case, copies of my upcoming book A ROYAL WITHOUT RULES.

I'm not going to lie, I love this book.  I love my naughty prince, and I love the woman who finally sees the real man behind the legend.

Also, I think both the US and UK versions of the cover are very, very yummy indeed.

2in1covers

The most debauched man in the kingdom of Kitzinia—if not the entire world...

Royal PA Adriana Righetti is no stranger to scandal. But Prince Pato takes it to a whole new level. His infamous liaisons make for exceptionally disreputable reading!

Her latest assignment, keeping the playboy prince out of the headlines before his brother's wedding, is mission impossible. Particularly as Pato is intent on ruffling her seemingly uptight feathers!But when the cameras aren't looking, Adrianna sees behind his careless facade, and wonders—is there more to this rebel royal than the world knows?

****
“The only thing that matters is making sure you cease to be a liability to your brother for the next two months. My role is to make sure that happens.”

Adriana smiled again, reminding herself that she had dealt with far worse things than an oversexed black-sheep prince. That she’d cut her teeth on far more unpleasant situations and had learned a long time ago to keep her cool. Why should this be any different?

“And I should warn you, Your Royal Highness. I’m very good at my job.”

“And still,” Pato murmured, his head tilting slightly to one side, “all I hear is challenge piled upon challenge. I confess, it’s like a siren song to me.”

“Resist it,” she suggested tartly.

He gave her a full smile then, and she had the strangest sense that he was profoundly dangerous, despite his seeming carelessness.

****

Leave me a note in the comments here in my journal.  Tell me which version of the cover above you like better.  And I'll pick ten winners next Wednesday.

Happy birthday to me!
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Not long ago, it looked like we were pregnant.

Out of the blue, after so long.

We weren't even trying.  In fact, we were actively NOT trying, deep in the state of limbo we've been in for months now, not quite making decisions either way.  But my period was late.  Then even later.  Then REALLY late.  The only time my period has ever been late, I've been pregnant.  No late or missed periods for me, not ever, not unless a positive pregnancy test was involved.  So.

And I know all those stories.  The minute you stop trying!  The minute you focus on other things!  Miracles happen when you least expect it!!

But I wasn't pregnant.

And... I was relieved.

Because it turns out that maybe I don't want a miracle after all.

I've known for a long time that before I could decide where I wanted to go next on this journey, whether I wanted to adopt or foster or move to some farm somewhere and dedicate myself to--say--the raising of goats, I had to finish grieving what I'd already lost.  It surprised me what a long process that was turning out to be, how I kept hitting milestones I'd set for myself in advance but still wasn't satisfied, or ready to make that final decision.  I wanted to feel like myself again.  I wanted to feel healthy.  I wanted to get my head back on straight.  Do we try again?  Do we turn our attention to adoption?  Do we decide to travel the world?  It seemed like I was never quite ready to seriously answer those questions...

Then this happened.  I thought I'd gotten what I'd thought I wanted--and I didn't want it.

And I finally figured out that somewhere deep inside, I'd already decided.  I'd already moved on.  What I'd thought was an extended process of grief was instead me not wanting to accept that simple truth.

Because it makes me feel like less of a woman.  Unnatural. Wrong, somehow.  A woman who wants a child should be willing to do absolutely anything to have one, shouldn't she?  She should be willing to ruin her health, her body, her sanity, if that's what it takes.  She should be willing to ignore the stress it puts on her relationship.  She should be willing to have miscarriage after miscarriage, loss after loss.  She should be willing--eager, even--to let her world narrow down to her menstrual cycle, tracking it and trying and hoping, over and over and over again.  She should allow any and all invasive procedures.  She should spend whatever money is necessary.  She should be willing. So many women are, and I think they're heroes, every one.

But I'm not.

It scares me to write that.  It scares me that you'll think less of me.  That you'll think I'm a failure.  That I will.

That I already do.

That I am.

***
A few weeks ago I was at a party.  I found myself sitting at a table of women, several of whom were pregnant, and the talk turned to childbirth, babies.  Those first, tough months.  Different experiences during labor.  The role of husbands.  The salty, serious talk of women who perhaps share nothing else, but share that.

I wanted to die.  I wanted to leave.  But I was afraid that standing up and exiting the conversation would call more attention to me than if I simply sat there, enduring it.  And I was afraid that my failures, my losses, my inability to carry a baby was already stamped there on my face, for everyone to see.  Glaring and bright and humiliating.  How could I call more attention to myself?

I thought: these are stories I will never tell.  These are parts of the human experience that I will never know.

I thought: I'm an alien creature, and I'll live the rest of my life like this, cut off from the rest of the world.  Silent and marked and lonely and wrong.

Later, another woman I know, who knows what I've been through, stopped me when I was on my way out and said, so very simply, "I know what that's like."

She meant: Finding yourself there, in the middle of everything you don't have, wanted once, maybe don't want anymore but still mourn.  The horror of it.  That intense sadness.  That terrible feeling that you're tattooed, somehow, with all you've lost.  That you'll never fit in anywhere again.  That you don't belong because if you did, you'd have your own story to tell.  You wouldn't have lost so much.  You'd be a part of this great human pageant instead of stuck outside the window of it, staring inside, with your face pressed against the glass.

She knew.  She'd been there, too.  And in reminding me of that, in reaching out, she reminded me that we're never as alone as we feel in these awful little moments.  Even if we feel like we are, we're not.  There's no glass between us.  Not if we have the courage to reach out.

Which I'll tell you, I didn't.  Not that time.  But she did.

***
These are not secret shames, these things we carry and call our scars.  Every happy ending has so many sad, quiet spaces in there, that we don't share because we can't.  Because we don't know how.  Because we're afraid.  Because we think we really are failures, aliens.  Marked and wrong and twisted, somehow, by the things we've lived through.

And the truth is, we are.  We are forged in fires both terrible and grand, and fire leaves its mark.

But that, I think, is the miracle. We are the miracle.  The heroes in these stories, in our lives.  You and me.  All of us.

No matter what comes next.

Winners Picked!

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Head over to the comments of the original post to see if you won Lindy's book--or, if you didn't, to leave me your address so I can send you a little something to say thank you for entering!

And make sure to get your copy of Primetime Princess today!
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Lindy DeKoven wasn't my typical student.

She walked into my UCLA Extension class and made it clear that she was not only going to write the three chapters I assign in class--but she was going to finish the book.

Almost no one finishes the book.  In all the classes I've taught, I can count on one hand the number of students who've actually finished writing their books.  Because, as we all find out when we decide to actually sit down and try to do it, writing books is hard work.  But even back in the beginning, before she wrote a word, I could tell: Lindy wasn't kidding.  I don't think there's a single thing she couldn't do if she decided she was going to do it.

She didn't just finish the book.  She finished it in about four months.  Then, just as she'd told me she would, she sold it.  And it comes out today.  HOW COOL IS THAT?

Because Lindy, much like the character she writes about in her debut, Primetime Princess, is pretty much a force of nature.

home-book

High heels, hijinks, and head honchos in Hollywood

Alexa Ross has risen to the top of the Hollywood boys’ club. As the vice president of comedy development at Hawkeye Broadcasting System, Alexa has put her early years working as an assistant to Jerry Kellner, her sex-crazed former boss, behind her.

However, nepotism lands Jerry a plum spot at HBS…reporting to Alexa! Soon Jerry’s malicious behavior is destroying everything good in Alexa’s life, from the young student she tutors to the romance she thought she’d never find. Can Alexa win the battle for ratings and break through the glass ceiling, even if it destroys her—and everything she loves?

Sharp, witty, and heartwarming, Primetime Princess is an unforgettable sneak peek into the exclusive behind-the-scenes drama that occurs over the course of one TV development season.

Here's what I wrote about the book after I read it (in a great big rush one Sunday afternoon, because I couldn't bear to put it down, so desperate was I to know how it ended):

"Lindy DeKoven's brilliant debut manages to be a rollicking insider's tour behind the scenes of the Hollywood game, a searing indictment of the entrenched Boys' Club that dominates the industry, and a really great story about heroine Alexa Ross and her journey into the heart of that darkness--not just up the corporate ladder at the possible cost of all she holds dear, but toward a better understanding of who she is and what she wants out the life she's worked so hard to build. This is one of my favorite books this year!" —Megan Crane, author of I Love the 80s and Once More With Feeling

I love this book, and I love Lindy.  So to celebrate, I'm giving away two signed copies of the book.

Here's me and Lindy (holding one of the books I'm giving away, in fact) at her launch party this past weekend:

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Want a copy?  You know you do.  Just tell me what your favorite TV show is in the comments, and I'll pick two winners on Friday.

(Want the book desperately but afraid you won't win? You can buy your copy here.)